In California, certain crimes can only occur under certain circumstances. The crime of “looting” is one of them. This is when a crime involving theft or burglary occurs “during and within an affected county in a ‘state of emergency' or a ‘local emergency' resulting from an earthquake, fire, flood, riot, or other natural or manmade disaster.” Therefore, crimes such as second-degree burglary, grand theft, or petty theft are typically reclassified as looting when the crime occurs during a state or local emergency.
These types of crimes are very common after natural disasters. In the fallout of hurricane Sandy, there have been scattered reports of looting throughout the affected counties. If those acts of looting where to have occurred here in California under similar circumstances, the perpetrators would be facing charges of looting under California PC 463.
Because PC 463 is a “wobbler,” it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. The exposure of a defendant who has been convicted of misdemeanor looting is up to one year in county jail while conviction of a felony could result in a sentence of sixteen months, two years, or three years. When facing charges of theft, burglary, or looting, it is important to acquire the assistance of an attorney. Counsel will be able to attempt to negotiate a favorable plea-deal by reducing the charge to a misdemeanor from a felony or, if no deal is reached, provide effective representation for the defendant at trial.